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Sacred Sites

Submitted by on July 25, 2011 – 8:44 amNo Comment

Synagogue, Church, Mandir, Gurdwara and Mosque; my Manchester International Festival jaunt ‘to experience the sublime power of the human voice’ through religious devotion.

Mor Karbasi was a beautiful, long vibrant black flowing haired individual who sang the haunting songs of 15th century Iberian/Jewish tradition.

A voice that reached into the soul, pulling it out and smeared it over your face. Pain, loss, agony embedded in her voice touching the heart, sending a tsunami of emotion through your body, ripping sanctimonious self-complacency with razor sharp talons. The minimalist use of guitar enhanced a voice so powerful that the denizens of Jericho thanked their God that Mor inhabits the twenty first century.

This, the least religious of all the five ‘Sacred Sites’ events, was the most spiritual.

Candi Staton, the renowned Soul singer, delivered gospel music with impassioned commitment. This was the first truly religious experience expressed through song. A Christian service with gospel music an intriguing part.

Ms Staton’s epic struggle against drug and alcohol addiction, told through dictatorial voice, single-handedly held together a family and faith with dignity and grace. The Sacred Site hosting Candi unashamedly embraced twentieth century technology and mercantilism that would have had Jesus throwing tables around.

Anuradha Paudwal signified an ever-flourishing inner wish that the inventor of the chair be awarded the Nobel Prize. Having the flexibility of a lamppost makes it extremely difficult to to sit cross legged on the floor for longer than a gnat.

This was to be my first of three floor sitting religious experiences. A jittery MC type fellow instructed us not to use the front toilets and ‘for god’s sake don’t use that door’, pointing violently at a rather ondescript internal door. Beautiful brightly coloured saris everywhere, garlands of flowers, flashing lights and tinsel warned you not to settle down into quiet contemplation.

This was a celebration of life. Two Roland keyboard players, two percussionists, two backing singers and a fat bloke playing electric pads, this wasn’t the latest Manchester boyband. The flowing melodies juxtaposed the jaggedness of the dholak and tabla. A bit of communal chanting gave an enchanted audience the feel good factor.

Dya Singh singing Sikh shabads in the Gurdwara Sri Guru Harkrishan Sahib was my favourite event. I wouldn’t want you to think that the reason I loved this event so much was due to the fact that you got fed before and after the religious ceremony.

More than that, food is an imbedded element of Sikhism, I was given deep-fried fish, onion bhajis, veggie samosas and thick chapatti things and that was just the starters.

There was much more food after listening to Dya who insisted that we all be happy, that we love ourselves and others and enjoy life. His description of God which began, there isn’t a God, pricked my interest. God is the selfless, compassionate, sacrificing act of the individual. Now that makes a bit more sense and mountainous amounts of great food, that’s a religion I can get on board with. Throw in a chair and I’m a Sikh.

Qari Syed Sadaqat Ali the internationally renowned Qur’an recitalist was the purist exponent of the Sacred Sites concept. Devotion and praise through the use of the human voice. Qari Syed Sadaqat Ali used his voice unaccompanied.

His mellifluous voice filled the majestic hall with its richly tessellated patterned carpet and dazzling, glittering chandelier the size of the spaceship from Close Encounters. The initiated enraptured and responding at the appropriate times. This sharply contrasted with the women’s place of worship, functional carpet and strip lighting and a television feed of Qari Syed Sadaqat Ali. Although the women did get fed.

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